Too much political debate will kill you

Image: Paul Green

…just as sure as none at all

In light of the shock ‘Brexit’ vote in Thursday’s EU referendum, it’s been hard not to talk about politics. And, in truth, I enjoy my politics. I’m no expert but I have my thoughts and opinions and, sometimes, I don’t mind sharing them. To a degree, I also enjoy some of the banter around politics. It can be fun to debate and exchange views.

This weekend though, for those of us who were left feeling pretty devastated by the referendum result, it was also a chance to find some healing and, hopefully, a little hope through getting the extent of our frustrations laid bare.

But, after just a few days of political posting, mostly on Facebook, over the weekend, I’ve been quickly reminded why I massively reduced by Facebook usage in recent months, and why I’ve stepped back significantly from my political opining. It’s exhausting.

As I said recently to my friend, Mark, one of the reasons I don’t post more on politics is for my own sanity. I can do political conversation in small doses, but if it’s more than that I start to feel my soul being eroded!

This is something I’m becoming much more self-aware about. I am better at recognising the things in life that aren’t doing me any good. Slowly but surely, I’m realising sooner when I need to step away from something if I can sense it having a negative effect on me.

I used to feel that, once I’ve entered a debate with someone, I have to fight to the death! But now I’m quicker at noticing when a conversation isn’t going anywhere useful and backing out of it. Sometimes this is so hard. Inevitably, I am convinced I’m right 😉, and it feels like giving up or losing to extract myself from the debate. But I know for my own well-being – and sometimes the relationship with the other person – it’s best to walk away.

The truth is, it’s better to keep relationships with people healthy than to feel the need to always be right – and convince others of my rightness! Also, it’s especially important to make sure we keep the people we are having conversations with front and centre. So much political debate is dehumanised. It’s happening online so we forget about the real people behind the keyboards typing back at us. As soon as I see myself losing sight of the human in the debate, I know it’s time to step back.

Political debate and involvement is important. The more engaged the electorate is the better. But we have to make sure we resist letting it become a slagging match. Our political debate is in desperate need of civility. And I for one, when I do engage with others politically, want to be a voice of reason, compassion in the midst of it all. I want to be known as someone who listens and doesn’t just spout. I still have a long way to go — I fear we all do — but I want to do my part in making political debate civil, reasonable, and compassionate again.

Endless improvement

The end of tolerance